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South Korea and Japan have a long-lasting and historic rivalry that goes beyond the likes of football. Since the 16th century, the two countries have had many conflicts and wars and the most recent altercation was during the 20th century when Korea was under Japanese imperial rule. Since the last battle, the two have shifted gears and have trended towards a more peaceful approach in their bitter rivalry: Football

Since their first matchup in 1954, South Korea and Japan have been part of many exciting and emotional games. The most memorable was the 2012 Olympics Bronze Medal match where South Korea defeated Japan 2-0.

Another classic matchup was the 2019 Asian Games final, where South Korea defeated Japan 2-1 in extra time. This was a very emotional day for the South Korean national team, most specifically for Son Heung-Min as he was exempted from military service for this amazing win. This was most likely Min’s last chance to receive exemption after many previous failed attempts to win a medal for his national team. This includes a heartbreaking loss to the Socceroos in the 2015 Asian Cup final.

Throughout the rivalry, there have been many legends on both sides of the field.

From Manchester United legend, Park-Ji Sung to Parma icon, Hidetoshi Nakata, there has been without a doubt a high-class players in the rivalry. Recently, it has been one-sided as Son Heung-Min is dominating Asian football in the Premier League. With the 2010’s era in the rearview, a new decade appears on the scene. With this, shines a new and brighter rivalry between  Korea’s Lee Kang-In and Japan’s Takefuso Kubo.

Lee and Kubo share many similarities but yet, are bitter rivals. The two both play in the midfielder area. The players are both in La Liga. Both, 19, and share the same height of 5-foot-8.

Its a match made for the bright lightsBoth players have sky-high ceilings of potential and arguments are already talked on who will do better, similar to a Messi vs Ronaldo debate. Lee and Kubo both already have amazing accolades, with Kubo being the youngest goalscorer in Japan League history at 15. While Lee dominated the 2019 U20 World Cup-winning the Golden Ball award. (Notable players that have won the Golden Ball award include Maradona, Messi, Aguero, and Paul Pogba).

Without a doubt, these two players are showing promising potential. This could turn out to be the greatest football rivalry in Asian history. The odds are stacked against them regarding a Messi and Ronaldo rivalry, but such a battle involving political history is certainly rare to see.

As a biased Korean fan, I think Lee will have a better career because he just seems to have better potential after watching him in the 2019 U20 world cup. Unfortunately for Lee (Valencia), he hasn’t been receiving as much playing time compared to Kubo (RDC Mallorca) who is on loan from Real Madrid.

Valencia, as an organization, is a dumpster fire right now having fired their manager two days ago while being in the middle of the table. This could be good news for Lee and hopefully, he gets more playing time and a chance to show his worth in the starting lineup next year.

Image: Gaby X / YouTube